Canada reinforced their spot as Concacaf’s top team and are on the verge of booking a Qatar 2022 spot, defeating the United States 2-0 during a pivotal Concacaf World Cup Qualifier at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario on Sunday afternoon.
The lone undefeated team during the Octagonal stage, Canada have 22 points from 10 matches and are dreaming of their first World Cup since 1986. The USMNT, despite suffering a second qualifying defeat, remain second in the Octagonal table with 18 points after Costa Rica held Mexico to a 0-0 draw later Sunday.
Canada drew first blood early with Cyle Larin capping off a quick counter-attack, started when Kamal Miller headed an errant Matt Turner goal kick into space. Jonathan Osorio got a touch to feed Larin, who turned Miles Robinson via a combination with Jonathan David before firing inside the far post in the seventh minute. It was the Besiktas star’s Octagonal-leading fifth goal and 23rd career strike for Les Rouges.
Sam Adekugbe put the finishing touches on the deserved victory with a 95th-minute goal to cap a Man of the Match performance, the former Vancouver Whitecaps' homegrown defender's first international strike.
Christian Pulisic had a quality chance to level late in the first half after getting fouled by Mark-Anthony Kaye. But the Chelsea winger put his 22-yard free kick over the crossbar, much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
An even better chance came off Pulisic's corner-kick delivery two minutes from halftime, headed on frame by Weston McKennie but saved brilliantly by Milan Borjan.
The USMNT, which have outscored the opposition 11-3 during the second half in qualifying, pressed for the equalizer after halftime.
Canada, though, nearly put the match away in the 70th minute when Turner spilled David's shot into the direction of Larin. But the New England Revolution goalkeeper atoned quickly to push the ball away from Larin’s foot.
Paul Arriola came off the substitute’s bench and nearly scored the greatest of equalizers, yet his bicycle kick sailed just wide of the frame in the waning moments.
Adekugbe scored at the death to put the match away and move Canada one step closer to Qatar.
- THE BIG PICTURE: If there was any doubt about the region’s top team, Canada laid that to rest in Hamilton. Les Rouges have picked up road draws against Mexico and the United States – the two nations expected to be battling for the top spot in qualification – and beat both on chilly home soil. On Sunday, they were also without left back/attacker Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) and midfielder Stephen Eustáquio (Porto). The USMNT were punished for another slow start and couldn't rally in the second half as they’ve done throughout qualifying to put added pressure on themselves.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: Borjan's denial of McKennie’s headed attempt late in the first half was a thing of beauty.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: Adekugbe was sensational at left back and scored this memorable first goal for Canada at the death.
- CAN: Wednesday, Feb. 2 at El Salvador | 9 pm ET (OneSoccer, Paramount+)
- USA: Wednesday, Feb. 2 vs. Honduras | 7:30 pm ET (FS1, Univision, TUDN)